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US asks Pakistan to fight all terrorist groups

ISLAMABAD: The United States asked Pakistan on Monday to indiscriminately fight all terrorist groups.

This message was conveyed to Pakistani leadership during US National Security Adviser Lt Gen H.R. McMaster’s daylong trip to Islamabad during which he met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Janjua and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.

Gen McMaster is visiting the region for consultations ahead of finalisation of the Trump administration’s policy on Afghanistan.

The adviser’s visit was the first direct high-level interaction between Pakistan and the US since the new administration assumed charge in Washington.

In first visit to Islamabad, American NSA meets Sharif, Bajwa

The US Embassy said in a statement the visiting NSA “stressed the need to confront terrorism in all its forms”.

When asked to comment on US do more mantra, military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor at his presser dismissed it as “political rhetoric”.

He said “wise (members of) international community were acknowledging Pakistan’s contributions in fight against terrorism”.

Before arriving in Islamabad, Gen McMaster, in an interview with Afghanistan’s Tolonews, said “US hopes Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after terrorist groups less selectively than they have in the past and the best way to pursue their interest in the country and elsewhere is through diplomacy not through the use of proxies and engaging violence”. He had then also warned that those helping perpetuate violence in Afghanistan “ought to be exposed and held accountable”.

It is said that the US wants Pakistan to end its support for the Taliban.

Lisa Curtis, who had in her paper she co-authored with Amb Hussain Haqqani counselled review of policy on Pakistan for containing and eventually eliminating terrorism, has now joined the US National Security Council as a director and was accompanying Gen McMaster on the visit.

The United States is considering addition of “few thousand troops” to Afghanistan in an effort to break the stalemate in the conflict there. For this, it is said, it needs Pakistan’s complete support.

Pakistani leadership expressed the government’s willingness to engage with the US government for achieving peace in Afghanistan.

Statements from Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Office on Gen McMaster’s meetings with PM Sharif and Mr Sartaj Aziz were similar in the sense that both said they expressed “readiness to work with the international community to explore ways in which the Afghan crisis can be resolved”.

An ISPR statement on US NSA’s meeting with Gen Bajwa at the GHQ was the briefest and just said: “Pak-US relations, defence cooperation and regional security issues were discussed”.

Pakistani leaders, meanwhile, conveyed their concerns about India and hoped that the Trump administration would play its role in easing tensions in the region.

Mr Sharif noted that “sustained dialogue and meaningful engagement” was the only way forward to resolve all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan including the Kashmir dispute. He, however, welcomed President Trump’s willingness to help India and Pakistan resolve their differences particularly on Kashmir and noted that this could go a long way in bringing sustainable peace, security and prosperity to the region.

It should be recalled that PM Nawaz Sharif had also on Tuesday in an interview with state-run newswire APP urged the Trump administration to play its role for resolution of the Kashmir dispute, which is at the core of tense rivalry between nuclear armed Pakistan and India.

Pakistani hopes about the Trump administration getting involved in an effort for easing tensions between the two South Asian rivals stem from a recent statement by US permanent representative at the UN Amb Nikki Haley, who had said: “It’s absolutely right that this administration is concerned about the relationship between India and Pakistan and very much wants to see how we de-escalate any sort of conflict going forward.” The State Department, however, after strong Indian reaction reverted to its traditional position that it was for Pakistan and India to bilaterally resolve their dispute.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2017

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